Union Coalition Pushes Reform Measure That Would Shift San Jose’s Mayoral Elections

Just as Citizens United changed the campaign finance game on a broad scale, a local coalition of union-aligned advocacy groups hope to upend what they call a pay-to-play environment in San Jose politics.

Members of Silicon Valley Rising—an advocacy nonprofit led by the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships—filed a petition last week at City Hall that could limit where candidates get their campaign cash.

Under the proposed rules, some for-profit developers and landlords would be prohibited from donating money to political campaigns if they submitted a project application, owned or managed a certain number of rental units or participated in a bid involving more than $250,000 of city funds within the prior two years. Their lobbyists and special interest groups would also be banned from donating.

The initiative would also shift the city’s mayoral election, aligning it with the presidential election year starting in 2024. San Jose’s current mayor, Sam Liccardo, terms out in 2022, which would set up his successor for a two-year term. Advocates for the measure argue that the realignment would up voter turnout in mayoral elections, citing data that show participation peaks in presidential election years.

If the petition tops 70,000 signatures, it would make its way to the City Council for outright approval or placement on the November 2020 ballot.

Richard Konda with the Asian Law Alliance said that the initiative is a way to help improve San Jose’s “dismal” voter turnout for mayor—the only elected official who represents the city at large instead of by district.

“For young voters (and) minority voters, the turnout is something we struggle with, and we see this change in the election as a way to get more young voters and more minority voters to participate in the election,” he said.

Konda added that it’s also a way to get big money out of politics. “This will help elect people that are truly representing people and not just special interests,” he said.

But critics of the move say labor groups backing the measure as a way to crack down on special interests are displaying a curious lack of self-awareness.

“It is ironic that this proposed ballot measure that seeks to remove special interest money out of local politics, conveniently exempts other special interest groups such as labor unions from the same standard,” said Matt Mahood, president of the Silicon Valley Organization (SVO), the region’s pre-eminent chamber of commerce. “Labor unions must be held to the same standard if we are to advance any meaningful campaign reform.”

Konda, however, reassured critics that it wasn’t barring developers from the political process; they would still be able to donate to independent expenditure committees.

But Liccardo said that there needs to be one set of rules for everyone. “The notion that an owner of a daycare center or yoga studio cannot support the candidate of their choice but the NRA or South Bay Labor Council can seems patently unfair to me,” he told San Jose Inside. “Particularly when one of those later groups may be pushing to impose hundreds of millions of dollars of costs on taxpayers for pensions, for example.”

The potential ballot measure is the culmination of a long process wherein a faction of council members tried to realign the mayoral election with the presidential election year. In April, however, it failed 6-5 at the hands of the City Council.

Liccardo, who voted no, said he still has concerns about how it will affect the mayoral elections. “I don’t see how voters will be paying a lot of attention to those critically important local issues when all the media time and political oxygen will be consumed by debates about Bernie and Trump.”

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase.

7 Comments

  1. I agree on taking the big money out of politics. This is particularly true about taking the money of tech companies out that currently contribute significan money to the political campaigns of Liccardo, Khanna, and other local politicians. Then these politicians make favors to those financing their campaign. This is why we have the Google mess in San Jose. Liccardo is a puppet in Google hands. Then we have the top Google executives being from far away places. They came as international “talent” and they bring more international “talent.” Other tech companies do the same. Then this international “talent” pushes our lifelong generations of low and middle class families out of the area. This includes the Native American families. These families are now moving out of the area force to give their space to this international “talent.” They move to places with lower educational and employment opportunity. This is what the tech companies and Google being the worst are doing to our communities. RECALL LICCARDO!

    • > Then we have the top Google executives being from far away places. They came as international “talent” and they bring more international “talent.” Other tech companies do the same. Then this international “talent” pushes our lifelong generations of low and middle class families out of the area.

      Surely you wouldn’t be talking about Ro Khanna.

      He’s a Democrat and just wants what’s best for the little people.

      • I am talking about Khanna, Ash Karla whatever. Have you noticed a significant number of these candidates. All financed by the tech companies and growing their cultural belief of being a superior group. These are the ones that are taking over the Bay Area, communication, and other power, such as buying politicians. Then we gave the republicans so focused on the illegal immigration. This is the other side of the coin. Those with money to buy visas illegally and even citizenship under the international “talent” claim. They are taking all the positions of power by every single mean. They are not for the little people, they are for themselves! Then they side with the East Asians claiming they are all Asians. In reality, these are two very different races and cultures. But the East Asians are big numbers in this area. If they also grab some Latino people, then, they have the votes they need to win elections. These are also the executives and directors that discriminate people because they have the power to do so. And the Republicants focusing on those that just one any job that can help them survive! Wow! The tech companies finance these politicians including Liccardo. This is your homework Bubble. You see, I am willing to be an Allie with anyone to with my causes. Fighting local corruption is my cause. Pass this information!

      • This is why I support Kamala. She is going to give the power back to the low and middle income people in this country which is the majority. Her agenda and policies are aimed to this population. This is why all these extreme left hate Kamala and support Bernie. Khanna works for Bernie. Then Kamala is a Christian and Bernie a non-believe. If you add the fact that Kamala’s husband is a Jew, then she is quite undesirable for them. For this they use idiots like Tulsi to throw dirt both to Kamala and Trump. She is the army… Am I the only one seeing the big picture of all this mess and corruption? If you wanted to know why California has become too blue and too extremist, here you have the answer Bubble!

  2. > . . . would be prohibited from donating money to political campaigns if they submitted a project application, . . .

    > Their lobbyists and special interest groups would also be banned from donating.

    “Activism is righteousness plus force”.

    — Paul Rosenberg
    “Production Versus Plunder”

    https://tinyurl.com/yydyg3ad

  3. This is an end run around union/management bargaining. These unions are trying to keep management from donating to campaigns — but the unions would still be able to donate to union-friendly candidates.

    This proposal should apply to every group — or to no group. If this passed, the end result would be higher costs to the city — and thus, to the public.

    Unions are always crying that management is “unfair”. But what’s fair about this? If unions can’t bargain one on one with management, why should the city’s voters give them a big stick like this?

  4. Well, they should like at county elections as well. Cortese boasted about raising 600k. Actually 592k.

    Every major developer and county vendor sent in a check to but Dave Cortese. Understand he takes credit cards on his smartphone.

    Dollar Dave, candidate for sale.

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